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Philadelphia priest, schoolteacher convicted of abuse in case related to clergy vicar’s conviction

Catholic World News - January 31, 2013

A Philadelphia priest and former Catholic elementary school teacher have been convicted of sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy in 1998 and 1999.

“I’m overjoyed that there was a conviction, mostly because of this victim,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. “I really didn’t expect it.”

“The accuser, now a gaunt young man, has battled heroin abuse since his teens and still has a drug case pending,” the Associated Press reported. “And details of his story changed frequently over the years, even about whether [the teacher] raped him in the classroom or in a parked car.”

The accuser, the son of a Philadelphia police officer, “initially told a Church social worker he’d been raped for five hours by [Father Charles] Engelhardt after Mass; beaten and tied with sashes by defrocked priest Edward Avery; and raped by [teacher Bernard] Shero at school,” the AP report continued. “None of those details emerged in his trial testimony.”

In 1992, Avery had been accused of abusing a child in the late 1970s, and archdiocesan officials sent him to a treatment center. At the direction of Msgr. William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s vicar for clergy from 1992 to 2004, Lynn was subsequently assigned to the ten-year-old boy’s parish. Cardinal Justin Rigali, who served as Archbishop of Philadelphia from 2003 to 2011, deemed the 1992 allegation credible in 2003, and Avery was subsequently laicized.

Avery later pleaded guilty to abusing the 10-year-old boy and began to serve a prison sentence of up to five years in March 2012. Following Avery’s guilty plea, Msgr. Lynn was convicted in June 2012 of endangering the welfare of a child and sentenced to three to six years in prison.

When Avery took the stand earlier this month in the trial of Engelhardt and Shero, however, he recanted his guilty plea, said he did not know the boy, and said that he had accepted a plea agreement to avoid a prison sentence of up to 60 years.

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